While money can't technically buy happiness, it can buy you a mood-boosting, outlook-improving vacation. That's because experiences—unlike clothes, cars, or other tangible items that deteriorate over time—live on in all their magic in our memories and stories. And when excursions are shared with someone you love, they create emotional bonds that stick around long after your suntan fades. They can be some of our best investments. Haven't made plans yet to skip town this summer? These money-saving travel hacks can help you book the destination of your choice and enjoy your time there—without breaking the bank.

1. Fly the Coop Fast
If you're seeking a last-minute adventure, try the GTFO (Get the Flight Out) app. It lists the cheapest round-trip flights departing from your local airport that day or by the next morning.

At press time, airfare was down 12 percent from last August; round-trip tickets for domestic flights averaged around $218. Source: Hopper.com

2. Snag a Discounted Hotel Room

If Airbnb isn't your style, reserve marked-down accommodations on Tingo.com, which lists more than 155,000 locations worldwide. After you book a Price Drop room, the site monitors rates until, typically, 24 to 48 hours before check-in. If the price drops, Tingo refunds you the difference.

$50: The average savings on a two-night stay using Tingo.

Pro Tip: Try to nab a free room upgrade by asking at the front desk for a specific kind of room, says Matthew Kepnes of the budget travel site NomadicMatt.com. Say, "This is my first time in the city, and I'd love a skyline view. Any chance you have a room on a high floor?" Or, "We just got off a long flight and the kids are cranky, so some extra space would be amazing. Is there a bigger room available?" Be super nice in the process, says Kepnes, and "you're more likely to get a yes."

3. Take Advantage of the Robust Dollar

If you've been waiting for the right time to go to Europe, this may be your chance. "Recently we've seen a surge in affordable airfare and a strong U.S. dollar," says Clara Sedlak of the travel site Jetsetter. For even better deals, venture off the beaten path. Some surprising overseas spots that are trending (and show a drop in median airfare in August) are Cyprus (above); Reykjavík, Iceland; and Kraków, Poland.

During 2015 and the beginning of 2016, the dollar hit its highest point in more than a decade.

Pro Tip: For dining discounts in Europe, reserve through TheFork.com (think OpenTable, but overseas) and reduce the cost of your meal by up to 50 percent.

4. Live It Up Locally

If you're planning to staycation this summer, try an affordable escape close to home. The free app HotelTonight offers lodging deals in more than 100 U.S. and Canadian cities and regions, and has a location-based feature that gives extra savings on already discounted prices on spots closest to you (hunt for rooms with the green GeoRate logo). Same-day prices fall even lower after 6 p.m.

Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and author of When She Makes More, hosts CNBC's Follow the Leader and the podcast So Money.

Photo Credit: Wings: Michael Burrell/Alamy. Cyprus: Neil Farrin/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images. Hotel Room: DragonImages/istock.


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